The Mariners fell behind 5-0 after three innings, rallied to tie at 7 in the seventh, but lost in the eighth Wednesday night when Luis Valbuena crushed a two-run homer off rookie reliever Edwin Diaz, giving the Houston Astros a 9-8 victory at Minute Maid Park (box). The Astros (46-39) moved three games ahead of Seattle (43-42) for second place in the AL West.
A three-run homer by LF Seth Smith tied the game at 7. In the ninth, Seattle pulled to within 9-8 when 2B Robinson Cano doubled home CF Leonys Martin. The Mariners loaded the bases with one out, but Houston’s Luke Gregerson recovered to strike out Nelson Cruz and Dae-Ho Lee.
With the three-game sweep, the Astros handed the Mariners, who had four home runs, their ninth consecutive road loss.
In the seventh, Diaz broke a franchise record set 19 years ago by Randy Johnson, but in the eighth allowed a leadoff double to Jason Castro. After striking out George Springer, Diaz left a pitch up in the zone and Valbuena sent it deep into the seats in right.
The Mariners’ homers: A solo by Cano (fourth inning), a two-run shot by 3B Kyle Seager (fourth), a solo by Lee (fourth), then Smith for three runs (seventh). Seattle has 128, third in MLB . . . Cano’s was his 20th, marking the seventh time in his career that he has hit 20+ . . . Cano is the sixth American League second baseman with seven 20-homer years and the second Seattle second baseman with multiple 20-homer seasona, following Bret Boone, who hit 20 or more four times between 2001-04. Cano went 3-for-3 with a pair of walks . . . Seager extended his hitting streak to nine with his 17th homer . . . Lee’s homer was his 12th, Smith his 11th . . . The Mariners went 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven.
The Astros knocked around starter Wade LeBlanc for five runs, four earned, including a home run, in 3.1 innings. LeBlanc, who entered 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA, struck out two and walked one, lasting 63 pitches . . . Nathan Karns allowed two runs on three hits in 2.2 innings of relief . . . Before issuing the game-losing homer, Diaz struck out Colby Rasmus swinging leading off the seventh to establish a franchise record for consecutive outs by strikeout with 11. Johnson had 10 from July 13-18, 1997.
“(Wade) LeBlanc didn’t have his best stuff. He fell behind in the count on some guys. When he goes out there, he has to be on. Diaz just made a bad pitch in a bad spot and Valbuena yanked it. We lived by the home run tonight and we got burned by it.” — Mariners manager Scott Servais
The Mariners are 2-14 in road games since June 3 . . . The Mariners are 15-22 vs. the AL West, including 4-6 against Houston . . . Nine of Seattle’s past 18 losses have been by one run . . .With RHP Taijuan Walker going on the disabled list Wednesday with tendinitis in his right arch, the Mariners will try long reliever Mike Montgomery in the starting rotation Sunday when they play the fourth of four in Kansas City. Montgomery has a 2.15 ERA in 50.1 innings spanning 30 appearances . . . Felix Hernandez is scheduled to make a pair of rehab assignments before rejoining the Mariners July 20 against the Chicago White Sox. Hernandez, out since May 27 with a right calf strain, will pitch at A Everett Sunday and for AAA Tacoma July 15.
The Mariners and Royals begin a four-game set at Kaufman Stadium Thursday at 5:10 p.m., PT. LHP James Paxton (2-3, 4.24) will throw for Seattle opposite LHP Danny Duffy (4-1, 3.11). The series will take Seattle to the All-Star break.